An Account of Travel to the Corinthia: Major Sir Greenville Temple (1836)

While conducting research on the diolkos of Corinth last year, I discovered the enormous corpus of scanned texts in Google Books relating travel accounts to Greece and the Aegean from the late 18th to 20th centuries.  These searchable texts offer the researcher an easy way of measuring historical interest in ancient landscapes.  I was interested at what point in time that the diolkos, defined by Strabo as a toponym for the ‘narrowest part of the Corinthian Isthmus,’ was redefined as a “portage road.”  Using Google Books allowed me to discern that the change had occurred by the mid-19th century.

I recently heard from Fotini Kondyli, who is organizing an exhibition for the First Amsterdam Meeting of Byzantine and Ottoman Archaeology, Digging up Answers to the Medieval Mediterranean.  In going through British travelers’ writings, she found and sent me this account by Sir Greenville Temple of a trip to Corinth in the 1830s (see pp. 58-64).  The account, which I copy out here, is also interesting in that it relates to a drawing from Harrison’s A Pictorial Tour in the Mediterraneanthat will be shown at the exhibition.  See the Google Books version for several notes that accompany this text.

I have posted this as a permanent page on the website.


“At night we again lay-to, by the pilot’s advice, between Salamis and Lavousa island, (Aspis.)

On the 9th, after passing by the islands of Pente Nesia (Dendros,) Havreo, and Plato, we anchored in the beautiful little bay of Kehkrieh (Cenchres) at the head of the bay of Aegina (Saronicus sinus.) Our visit to Corinth we deferred till the following day, as it would have been late before we could have procured horses to convey us there; and employed the remainder of the day in wandering about the neighbourhood.—Passing by some extensive and ancient quarries, from which we had a fine view of the bay of Kalamaki, we went to Cososi (Schoenus.) The country through which we walked abounds with hares and partridges, and our sailors collected a great number of tortoises, some of considerable size. They formed very good soups. One mile in the opposite direction, and near the cape which divides the little bay of Kehkrieh from that of Galataki, we saw what Pausanias calls the baths of Helen, which are nine feet deep, slightly mineral, and though not warm, yet rather tepid.

The site of the ancient Cenchres is at present occupied by a single farm-house, near which is a well of excellent water. Cenchres was the naval station of the Corinthians on the east, as Leches was on the west. It contained temples dedicated to Venus, Isis, and Esculapius, and placed on a rock in the sea stood a statue of Neptune. Close to the sea, and in parts even covered by its waters, are the foundations of a variety of buildings, whose plans can distinctly be traced, as the walls still remain to the height of from two feet to three feet and a-half.

Next morning, having procured horses and mules, we rode to Corinth, nine miles distant. On our left rose a chain of bold rocky hills, on the side of which is the village of Xylo Kerata. Passing by some ancient quarries, we reached the village of Hexomili, or Korio Americano, built on Mr. Owen’s plan by the American missionaries, and consisting of three long rows of houses, parallel, but at a considerable distance from each other. It was almost entirely destroyed by the Greeks during the late commotions. Nearer the mountains are the ruins of a large house built for himself by the principal missionary. Beyond Hexomili are traces of an aqueduct, some tombs, and fragments of brick buildings.* Having crossed the stream of Eupheeli, we soon reached a small collection of houses scattered through a large extent of others in ruins; and this, to my surprise, I found to be Corinth!

The town is known indifferently by the names of Korinto, Korto, and Ghiurdos—and in different parts are seen the ruins of mosques, and minars, and those of an extensive serai, formerly the residence of the Turkish pashas. Adjoining the serai, or rather at the base of the rock on which it stands, is the fountain of Peirene, now called Aphroditi: it consists of a small stream gushing out of a fissure in the rock, whilst water drops from its overhanging ledge. This deliciously cool spot was formerly enclosed within the boundaries of the harem garden, and here doubtless many idle moments were spent by the powerful pasha—seated on the carpets of Persia, and surrounded by groups of lovely women, whilst he smoked his chibook, and perhaps indulged in the forbidden draught of wine. How changed is the scene !—no vestiges of the garden and its tulip-beds, the kioshks no longer exist, and a few dirty and squalid Greek women washing their rags, or carrying away jugs of water, have taken the place of the lovely inmates of the harem.

The town was entirely destroyed during the last revolutionary war, but a few houses are rising out of the ashes; the bazaar is tolerably supplied, and there is a good inn kept by a Cephaleniote. Opposite the governor’s house are the remains of a Doric temple, of which seven fluted monolithic columns remain, which at present measure fifteen feet seven inches in circumference, but before the edges of the fluting were chipped off, their circumference was sixteen feet; they were covered with a coating of stucco or cement, and perhaps painted. Antiquarians suppose the temple to have been dedicated to Minerva Chalinitis. Close to it, is an isolated mass of rock cut in a square form, and having a chamber excavated in it. This may be the tomb of Lais, but the lioness holding a ram between her fore-feet, which Pausanias states to have been sculptured on it, exists no longer.

Observing no other remains of antiquity in the town, we rode up to

…. “Yon tower-capt Acropolis,

Which seems the very clouds to kiss.”

The road was good and partly paved. The citadel is a large and straggling Venetian fortification with crenelated walls, which in parts rest upon portions of the old ones, composed of large, square, regular stones. It mounts about twentyfive pieces of cannon, many of which are Turkish brass pieces of forty-eight pounds, bearing the tooghra of Selim III. The garrison amounts to one hundred men.

On the highest point of Aero Korinto, elevated five hundred and seventy-five metres above the sea, are seen traces, round a small ruined Moslem chapel, of an ancient edifice constructed of large square stones, which may probably be part of the temple of Venus, which Strabo states occupied the summit. From this the view is really magnificent, embracing the gulfs of Ainabahkt (or Lepanto) and Aegina, divided from each other by the isthmus.* Half way across the Isthmus rise the Paleo Vouni mountains (Gerania) on the east, and Makriplai (Oneion) on the west; beyond whose western extremity, which forms Cape Malangara, (Olmice vel Acrceum prom.) is seen the Bay of Livadostro (Alcyonium mare.)  On the opposite shore are the heights of Galata; Ximeno (Cirphis,) and Lyokoora, (Parnassus,) in Phocis; —Zagora ( Helicon,) Koromilia,(Tipha) and Elatea (Cithceron,) in Boeotia;— the high land in Megaris; and Kerala, partly in that and partly in Attica ; —Salamis and other islands in the Saronic sea —the flat sea-board of Achaia, with Balaga (Lechaeum) the now filled up port of Corinth. In the rear are the two roads, which, winding through beautiful valleys and mountain passes, lead to Argos, Nauplia, &c; and the whole is bounded by the ranges of the Cellenus, Artemisium, and Taygetus.

In the different parts of the citadel are scattered a considerable number of columns, among which are some of very fine verd’ antico. There is also a very large reservoir of water, and, according to the on dit of the soldiers, no less than three hundred and sixty-five wells— one of these with a spring, which is situated in the parade-ground in front of the barracks, is said to be the source of Peirene, which again comes to light, as before-mentioned, under the ruins of the pasha’s serai.—During the Turkish rule, Aero Korinto contained a considerable village, only the ruins of which at present remain.

On an adjoining peak of the mountain is another, but smaller, fort, called Pendeh Scoofia, occupied by the Greeks for the purpose of bombarding the citadel from it. It mounts at present six guns and a bomb, and is garrisoned by twenty men. It was from this spot that Muhammed II., in 864, H., thundered against the Acropolis, which soon fell.

Returning to the yacht, we arrived in fifteen minutes west of Corinth, at the remains of an amphitheatre excavated out of the surface of the rocky soil. A small portion only of the seats remain, and as the lower seats have fallen in, the dimensions of the arena could not be accurately taken; it, however, seems to have been about two hundred and eighty-four feet in length, running nearly north-east and southwest, by one hundred and seventy-seven feet in breadth. At the north-east extremity, the entrance is cut through the rock, the roof being flat. At present it forms a large cave in which many Greek families took refuge from the Turkish forces during the late commotions.”

Temple of Apollo Photographs at the Benaki Museum

A recent article from the Greek Reporter highlights the photographic exhibition of James Robertson at the Benaki Museum:

James Robertson was one of the first prominent traveler-photographers to depict scenes of mid-nineteenth century Greece. Of Scottish descent, he has been identified as the engraver James Robertson, who worked in London around 1830. He first settled in Constantinople in 1841, where he spent forty years of his life working as a master engraver in the imperial mint. His photography career began in the early 1850’s when he opened a photographer’s studio in Peran, the European district of Constantinople. He died in 1888 in Yokohama.

James Robertson’s collection of photographs of Greece was published simultaneously in London and Constantinople. One of the few remaining portfolios (44 photos) entitled “Photographs by James Robertson, Athens and Grecian Antiquities” was donated by Rena Andreadi to the Photographic Archives of the Benaki Museum where it is treasured as a precious historical document and a rare example of early photographic art.

The exhibit, which includes photographs of the Temple of Apollo in the early 1850s, will run until August 21.  See the description at the Benaki Museum website.

“Letter to the Corinthians – Yes we can”

This Reuters article came through my feed last week describing how the modern village of ancient Corinth is dealing with Greece’s economic crisis.  The author seems to me to be painting an overly dramatized view of the drop in tourism in the village.  In my 15 summers of visits to the Corinthia, I don’t recall large crowds ever swarming Acrocorinth, and indeed, this summer there were two bus loads of students touring the acropolis when we visited at the start of June.  Conversations with Corinthians this summer suggest that there is a real concern to improve tourism (is that really a new concern?), but I also heard from a tavern owner that tourism was not down.  One’s impression of tourism in a place like ancient Corinth depends in large part on the time of day and year one is there—unlike, say, the Acropolis in Athens where the tourists come in more constant flows.  See, by contrast, Joel Willitts’ recent visit to Corinth after a ten year period — he describes it as ‘bustling tourist trap’!  I would be curious to see some figures for the drop in tourism in 2011.

A replica of the Argo ship sails into the Corinth canal some 100 km (62 miles) west of Athens July 2, 2008. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis

Service Excavations Unearth Corinth City Walls (and other buildings)

Last week the Greek newspaper To Bima released a news article announcing new discoveries from excavations at the northern end of the village of Ancient Corinth.  The excavations, carried out by the Greek Archaeological Service in advance of the construction of the new Eleusis-Corinth-Patras highway, revealed part of Corinth’s ancient city wall dating to the Archaic age (6th century BC).  The section of wall runs 80 m long and is preserved to a height of 1.6-3.2 m.

Στο  φως το  αρχαίο  τείχος της Κορίνθου


In addition to this wall, the excavations also brought to light other ancient buildings including a Mycenaean settlement, Geometric and Archaic shrines / cult places, an enormous building of late Hellenistic date (2nd c BC), a metallurgical workshop of Protogeometric date, tombs, and a quarry.  In the quarry was found a well 17 m deep and 1.15 m in diameter filled with pottery and tiles of archaic date.

Thanks to Jamie Donati for bringing this article to my attention.

Corinth in Context at Society of Biblical Literature, London 2011

Last week I spent conferencing in London at the international meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.  With the exception of one rainy day, the weather was cool and beautiful.  My own visit was improved by the presence of my wife, Kate, and toddler son James, who ensured that I spent more time at London’s best playgrounds and parks than the typical tourist attractions.

At the conference on the Waterloo campus of King’s College, I made it my goal to attend as many of the Corinth papers as possible.  There were a lot of Corinth papers, and I was only somewhat successful.  I have said it before that New Testament scholars have a great deal to say about Corinthian matters – more perhaps by volume than archaeologists and historians (compare the annual corpus of dissertations and publications).  And they are especially interested in understanding the various contexts that might shed light on the Corinthian community to whom Paul writes in 1 and 2 Corinthians.  In my own reading of the papers and abstracts, there were six sorts of contexts or aspects of Corinthians that the presenters discussed.  These are not neat and exclusive categories, of course, but I think they represent some of the main categories of research of NT scholars:

1. Historical and Social Contexts

A number of papers aimed to understand or explain aspects of 1 and 2 Corinthians by seeking, describing, or applying historical and social contexts.  So, for example, two papers dealing with meat and idols address the likely historical situation behind 1 Cor. 8-10 (I regret that my inability to figure out the London Underground led me to miss both of these):

Similarly, Oh-Young Kwon (A Glimpse of Greco-Roman Practice of Collegia Sodalicia in 1 Cor 8 and of Collegia Tenuiorum in 1 Cor 15) suggested that Christian participation in voluntary collegia would help to explain passages in 1 Corinthians dealing with eating meat sacrificed to idols and the resurrection of the dead, while Sin Pan Daniel Ho’s paper (Unmasking a Scandalous Taboo or Taking a Stand Against the Streams? A Counter-cultural Reading of 1 Cor 5:1 and its Implication for the Theme of 1 Cor 5) examined attitudes to sexuality in the first century to argue that incestuous unions were not all that shocking to the early Corinthian Christians!

Other papers along these lines:

Listening to the papers and the audience feedback suggested suggested several difficulties in doing this kind of work:

a) Establishing the general context, whether it be a ‘social ethos’ or patronage networks, is not at all easy.  For example, did inhabitants of Roman colonies really think incestuous unions were acceptable or even good?  How does one convincingly make that sort of case given our extant textual and material forms of evidence?

b) Knowing whether a probable general context (e.g., collegia) of the Greco-Roman is the actual particular situation implicit in 1 and 2 Corinthians, especially when alternate explanations are possible.

2. Literary, Rhetorical, and Inter-textual Contexts

A few papers dealt with literary issues like the form of the letters, its composition, Paul’s use of rhetoric, intertextuality, and theological formulation:

  • Jeffrey Peterson, for example, suggested in  Inclusio and Integrity in 2 Corinthians 2:17 and 12:19 that the phrase “we are speaking before God in Christ” in chapter two and twelve of 2 Corinthians represents an inclusio that frames the letter and supports an argument against partition theories of 2 Corinthians.
  • Tobias Hagerland considered in Paul’s Elaboration of a Jesus Chreia whether 1 Cor. 11.23-25 might qualify as a ‘chreia’  used in progymnastic rhetoric.
  • Matthew R. Malcolm of cryptotheology fame gave a brilliant paper (Beyond Greco-Roman Rhetorical Criticism) highlighting the limits of classical rhetoric for understanding the form and content of 1 Corinthians.  He argued rather that the experience of a died-and-raised Messiah shaped and structured the overall form of the letter: death – ethical instruction – resurrection.  This paper will be published in the near future and sounds like a balance to the recent emphasis in NT studies on classical rhetoric.
  • See also:

3. Paul’s Mission

Several papers dealt with aspects of Paul’s mission, ministry, and teaching evident in 1 and 2 Corinthians and known by comparison with other documents of the New Testament (Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles).  In this case, the context is created by reference to other NT texts that makes meaningful particular passages of the Corinthian correspondence:

4. Early Christian (and Christian) Contexts

A number of papers used passages in 1 and 2 Corinthians to inform our knowledge of early Christianity, or indeed, Christianity generally:

5. Modern Contexts

Then there were papers applying, addressing, or critiquing modern contexts or theory for interpreting the letters.

6. Archaeological Context

Finally, there were papers dealing with archaeological context.  While I was only able to hear a portion of the Corinth-related papers outlined above, what I heard suggested that material culture played a small role in understanding the Corinthian correspondence.  A session on the last day of the conference called “Becoming Roman Corinth: New Research” was designed to do exactly that.  Rather than reading the text of 1 and 2 Corinthians and seeking historical or material contexts to explain problem areas (as in #1 above), this session aimed to establish the sort of place Corinth was in the late Hellenistic to Early Roman era.  While all of the following papers contribute to our understanding of NT studies, the papers do not aim to solve or address specific problems in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.  This session re-presented in modified form papers delivered elsewhere, at the “Corinth in Contrast” conference in Austin, TX, in October 2010, with one addition (Melfi’s paper).  Expect to see most of the following papers published in 2012 in Corinth in Contrast: Studies in Inequality (eds. Friesen, James, and Schowalter).  See my previous comments on that conference here, here, and here.

It was interesting to hear members of the audience try to connect the conclusions of the individual papers with issues of Paul’s Corinthian community.  Ben Millis’ paper, for example, has significant implications for understanding the kind of hierarchical society Paul came to and the question of elite Christians—and the audience was particularly interested in his thoughts on questions of social dissonance (Meeks), stratification, and patronage.  In my own conclusions that the Isthmus was not the commercial thoroughfare we have often imagined it to be, I was asked the interesting question what the take-away would be for someone preaching from 1 Corinthians.  I will have to give that some more thought!


Overall, it was great to sit in on another set of conversations about Corinthiaka and better understand NT methods and contexts.  And for an ancient historian, it was interesting to see participants flipping through their Greek New Testaments (or the computerized versions) and grill each other on the particular meaning of a verse challenging the presenter’s interpretation.  But as an archaeologist who works with chronologically coarse materials like ceramics and coins, my favorite line from the conference was a presenter who said she favored the “late dating of Galatians, Autumn 55 AD”!  What, then, is the early dating: winter?

SBL – Day 3-4

More good 1 and 2 corinthians papers today at the SBL International:

Kar-Yong Lim, Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, “Paul’s Use of Temple Imagery in the Corinthian Correspondence and the Formation of Christian Identity: A Contextual Reading from the Perspectives of A Chinese Malaysian”

Jeremy Punt, Universiteit van Stellenbosch – University of Stellenbosch, “Foolish Rhetoric in 1 Cor 1:18-31: Paul’s Discourse of Power as Mimicry”

Mary Phil Korsak, Society of Authors-Translators Association, “Glad News from Mark”

Matthew R. Malcolm, Trinity Theological College (Perth) “Beyond Greco-Roman Rhetorical Criticism”

The final Corinth session will be tomorrow: “Becoming Roman Corinth: New Research.”

Sarah James, American School of Classical Studies in Athens, “The Last Corinthians? Settlement and Society from 146 BCE to the Roman Colony”

Milena Melfi, University of Oxford, “Greek Cults in a Conquered Land: Corinth and the Making of a Colonial Pantheon (146- 44 BCE)”

Benjamin W. Millis, University of Oxford, “The Elite of Early Roman Corinth: Social Origins, Status and Mobility”

Steven J. Friesen, University of Texas at Austin, ” Theodora: An Elite Woman in Early Roman Corinth”

David K. Pettegrew, Messiah College, “The Diolkos, Emporium, and Commercial Corinth”

Daniel N. Schowalter, Carthage College, Response


Two other Corinthians-related papers tomorrow at the same time as the session above:

James Gawley, Miami-Dade College, “Should They Stay or Should They Go? Traveling Prophets and the Split-Authorship of the Didache”

Kari Latvus, Helsingin Yliopisto – Helsingfors Universitet, “Who used the money in the early church?”

SBL – Day 1-2

Corinthianmatters is on the road again, this time in London for the Society of Biblical Literature 2011 international meeting. The conference started yesterday with a session called the “Corinthian Correspondence”:

Wayne Coppins, University of Georgia, “Paul’s Concern with the Nature and Location of Eating Meat Sacrificed to Idols in 1 Cor 8-10: A Response to Gordon Fee, Ben Witherington, Bruce Fisk and David Horrell” (25 min)

Richard A. Wright, Oklahoma Christian University, “Food Will Not Bring Us Close to God: Idol Meat and Moral Instruction in Corinth” (25 min)

Bettina Kindschi, Universitat Bern, “the Pauline collection for Jerusalem in it’s historical setting”

Kar-Yong Lim, Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, “On the Night He Was paredideto” (1 Cor 11:23): A Story of a Human’s Betrayal or a Story of God’s Action in Christ in Paul’s Gospel? (25 min)

Tobias Hagerland, Lunds University, “Paul’s Elaboration of a Jesus Chreia” (25 min)

Elizabeth Waldron Barnett, United Faculty of Theology, “The Dissonance of Developmentalist Discourse in 1 Corinthians 13″ (25 min)

Other Corinth papers yesterday included:

David T. Williams, University of Fort Hare, “ ‘He is the Image and Glory of God, but the Woman …’ (1 Cor 11:7): “Uncovering” the Understanding of the Imago Dei”

Sean F. Winter, Uniting Church Theological College. “The Reception History of the Pauline Epistles: Beyond the Commentary Tradition”

Johannes M. Wessels, North-West University, “Triangular Reciprocity: A New Perspective on 1 Cor 9”

Volker Rabens, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, “Philo’s Attractive Ethics”


Today’s papers included a second session on “1 Corinthians”:

Sin Pan Daniel H0, University of Sheffield, “Unmasking a Scandalous Taboo or Taking a Stand Against the Streams? A Counter-cultural Reading of 1 Cor 5:1 and its Implication for the Theme of 1 Cor 5”: (30 min)

Andrey Romanov, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, “The ‘Gift-Reward’ Tension in 1 Corinthians ” (30 min)

Oh-Young Kwon, Alphacrucis College, “A Glimpse of Greco-Roman Practice of Collegia Sodalicia in 1 Cor 8 and of Collegia Tenuiorum in 1 Cor 15” (30 min)

Todd D. Still, Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, “Why Did Paul Preach Christ Crucified among the Corinthians? A New Answer to an Old Question” (30 min)

Additional Corinth papers today:

Ally Kateusz, University of Missouri-Kansas City, “The Image of the Androgyne in Gen 1-3 as Interpreted in the Earliest Reception of 1 Corinthians”

Frederick S. Tappenden, University of Manchester, “ ‘Is he in Here or up There, and when do I Change my Clothes?’ – Mapping Conceptual Metaphors for Resurrection in the Undisputed Pauline Epistles”

Emmanuel Nathan, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, “A Cultural Theory of Disability: Rethinking the Rethinking of Disabilities in Biblical Studies”

Jeremy Kidwell, University of Edinburgh, ” ‘Firstfruits’ in Paul and the Theology of Consecration”(20 min)

I’ve been able to attend about half these papers and hope to write some reflections next week.